Clinicians with mental health difficulties
A letter was published in the December 2015 issue entitled ‘Patient and professional’ from an unnamed psychological wellbeing practitioner who talked about her experience of borderline personality disorder. I am surprised by the lack of reaction to this; it seems to me that mental health services can only be improved by professionals being more open and willing to share similar experiences. I am not talking about self-disclosure in therapy but asking for more general discussion of personal psychological difficulties. Or perhaps I am mistaken and those who practice in the field are immune to such things? The results reported from the British Psychological Society and New Savoy Partnership survey – ‘46% of psychological professionals said that they felt depressed and 49.5% reported feeling they were a failure’ (April 2015) – suggests not. Yet in the last few months, I have found only a handful of references to these problems and rarely from an individual perspective.
I confess I have an ulterior motive in asking people to speak up: I myself am looking for encouragement. How realistic it is for somebody who has spent several years struggling with depression to continue to harbour a desire to work in the field of clinical psychology? Well-meaning people, anxious to prevent further discouragement say, ‘But your experiences give you a better understanding!’ Perhaps. But I want to hear it from the clinicians themselves. One may achieve greater compassion and empathy for others through one’s own psychological difficulties, but I want to know if that is enough to help others overcome theirs, in a professional context. Are there mental health practitioners out there who have always had to fight the urge to hide under their desk when they arrive in work each morning? Even if not, I would still like to hear more of people talking openly about their own mental health in forums such as The Psychologist. Leading by example ought to be an effective way of combating stigma around seeking support for psychological distress.
Name and address supplied
BPS Members can discuss this article
Already a member? Or Create an account
Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber